riends stay down the road and come to our place to empty the wine cellar of rosé then suggest that we take them to some beauty spot where they can have a hearty lunch, stop every five metres to take a photograph and as an afterthought search for a source to replenish the grape juice.
Which is exactly what happened last week when we went to Mougins, a picturesque village above Cannes which Winston Churchill, Jean Cocteau, Christian Dior and Edith Piaf frequented and where Pablo Picasso spent the last twelve years of his life. After a gourmet lunch at the Paloma, we ambled through the village, stopping regularly at the numerous artists’ studios where our friends took a camera-full of photos of the statues and artworks dotted around the place.
I was looking at the massive bronze of the head of Picasso near the entrance to the village when I heard the never-to-be forgotten voice of U. Hueng Loe, “Aha, you like?” “What are you doing here U?” I said turning to see the grinning pint-sized oddball man of a million and one ideas that he claimed would make him a fortune. “I got glate idee fo new wash, you wanna heya?” “What happened to your last idea, the one about the thousandyear- old egg watch?” “I give up, not get rid of smell, people not like stinky list.” “What list?” “List, you know, like listwatch.” “Ah wristwatch.” “That what I say, listwatch. Now got betta idee, new matelial people no think of. I heya peoples make wash with laminated cabon and blown acetate, but me got oliginal idee flom hea.” “A new material from Mougins? Like what U.?” “You no tell no? Is Picasso paint.” “I’m sorry U., but I’m not sure I understand.”
“Picasso live hear. He paint, not always use all paint, it go solid, I make wash case with solid paint, velly pletty collus.” “Come on U. where are you going to find some of Picasso’s old paint, anything he left will be in a museum.” “No ploblem. I buy old paint, call it Picasso’s paint, cook in oven, make block, then plototype, show next year in Basel.”
I stared at U. for a long time, trying to decide whether to laugh, cry or simply run off.
“You no like idee?” “I don’t know what to say U. I know the watch industry is constantly looking for new materials, but I don’t know if they’re quite ready for your dried paint watch cases.” “Why you always so negative? I off now, sclape palettes from painter I know. You see, make big noise with wash, maybe even lite about in Eulopa Sta.”
And with that he drew himself up to his full 160 centimetres and skipped off into the narrow streets of the village, whistling like a man without a worry in the world. I think that if Winston Churchill had heard of U.’s idea his mouth would have fallen open, he would have spat out his Havana and with a typical Churchillian grunt given U. the inverted version of his famous V sign.